A detour from sewing so if you aren’t interested in dogs, please come back for the next post where we will resume sewing discussions.
I am writing a post about my fur-babies. We don’t have children, so for the last 20 years we’ve had a dog as our ‘kid’. All have been rescues; and with rescues, you never know exactly what you are getting but we have been blessed with wonderful dogs. As you will see from the stories, we have also been given challenges because someone knows we will provide what is needed. But as you read through this, know there is a joy at the end.
Our fur-baby history:
The first was a puppy (Ginger – named by the twin girls who lived next door at the time) who we were told was a Labrador Retriever mix and turned out to have quite a lot of Doberman in her. She was very athletic (which should have been our first clue but we were first time dog owners). I took classes to train me on how to train her. She was a wonderful dog, but alas we lost her at 5 1/2 to a genetic liver disease.
Shortly after losing Ginger, we adopted another female (Sheba). She was very much a Lab; 2 years old, raised as a hunting dog and turned into a kill shelter with 1 week old puppies. A local non-kill shelter rescued her and the puppies. After the puppies were adopted, they put Sheba up for adoption. We had her for about 5 years, and sadly she succumbed to kidney disease. We learned that often hunting dogs are not given enough water in their young lives as they are being trained and end up with kidney issues. Hindsight is always 20/20 so looking back we felt that she was probably never really healthy when we got her, but we cared for her until her body just gave up. Giving a 75 lb dog 2 bags of fluids a day to keep her hydrated is not an easy task, but they really helped her feel better for a while.
We were beginning a process of moving after losing Sheba, (which required a temporary move until the new house was ready) so we waited until we were settled to get another dog. Along came Rusty, an 80 lb chocolate lab. He was six years old and we adopted him from a local Lab Rescue organization. OMG – what a wonderful, loving dog who adapted to our home in an instant. I became a convert to male dogs and he and my hubby were instantly bonded. His history was quite sad and I am amazed at how dogs just bounce back like they had no past. He had been “stolen” from a bad situation. We were told he had been kept tied up outside for a very long time. Finally someone just took him from that situation and turned him over to Lab Rescue. He had skin issues, and a few other problems (thankfully no heartworm disease) so he was fostered for several months to clear all that up. He was ready for adoption when we were ready to adopt, so it was a match.
After we had him for about two years, he was sneezing and sneezing. Took him to the vet and they thought he had allergies so we gave him Benadryl. After that didn’t seem to help, we went back and the Vet did some tests. He had a growth in his snout. The biopsy showed 2 forms of cancer – a sarcoma and melanoma. Melanoma was caused by being left in the sun. If only I could have words with the people who kept him in those conditions! Surgery was done to remove as much of the cancer as possible, but without removing his entire nose. Well, with chemo meds and my Vet’s propensity for Chinese herbs, we were able to keep any remaining cells at bay for about 8 months. Then the bladder issues started and we had to take him off the chemo. The tumor came roaring back and by then the melanoma had spread. It is so hard to know when to let go and in hindsight we probably waited too long. We lost him almost a year after the cancer surgery. That was the most difficult loss we had of the 3 for a variety of reasons.
At this point my hubby said “no more dogs, I don’t want to go through this pain again”. I understood that, but also feel that getting another dog helps the healing. Plus they are a great exercise program! We continued to talk about our babies and different situations, their different personalities and that got us through.
After about 9 months I started broaching the subject of another dog. He was apprehensive, but open. I slowly started looking around, talked to a few people, filled out a new application with the Lab rescue organization. I was looking on their website periodically and suddenly there was Healey looking back at me. The sweetest face; he was a ‘smaller’ lab – 60 lbs. He was also blind. Hmmm – what would be involved in having a blind dog, I wondered.
I did some research and thought “we can handle this”. He wasn’t born blind, but has progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). This is genetic in Labs, but can be prevented by responsible breeding. The dogs can be tested for the gene, and as long as both parents don’t have the gene, the puppies should be ok. He was advertised as being “between 4 and 5 years old”. Apparently had been dumped when he went blind and was picked up by animal control in a rural near-by county. To his credit, the animal control officer contacted Lab Rescue and Healey was being fostered. We discussed the situation and decided to ‘meet’ him.
Well, long story short, we brought him home and he has been with us now for 18 months. I work from home so that meant he wouldn’t be left alone for long periods of time. He is the sweetest boy and had adapted beautifully to our home. In many ways he is easier than a sighted dog – we always know where he is (he is where we are); he never runs away from home; he rarely barks. He is definitely a ‘mamma’s boy’, likely because I am with him more. But when hubby comes home from work, I don’t exist (unless I am in the kitchen). The vet says he is confident – I say he is a love bug. Everyone says he is a very lucky dog to live with us; I say we are very lucky that he lives with us. He is healthy and happy, and we are hoping for a very long life for him.
I hope you enjoyed this detour. I have a number of items coming up in the next post, so stay tuned!